Academic Stick in the Mud

Glenn W. Lafantasie is a historian at Western Kentucky University… who made a name for himself in Civil War circles with the respectable study Twilight at Little Roundtop.    Professor Lafantasie now feels qualified to instruct all Americans in how to honor the  sesquicentennial of the Civil War.  From his lofty perch in academia, the good Professor cannot not bring himself to understand the historical value of living historians (reenactors is the term he prefers.)  On the pages of the snooty Salon magazine   reenactors are called “foolish” and openly mocked with half-truths and innuendo.  The Professor speaks out of both sides of his mouth in his misguided critique, on one hand he chastises reenactors and their inability to accurately portray combat and for being, “overweight baby boomers who are trying, despite their huge girths and hardened arteries, to portray fit, young soldiers”; yet he warns readers that no one except experts (like him) can accurately convey the harrowing experience of Civil War combat.  What interpretive standard is being used here, Professor?

Living historians from Sykes’ regulars

Civil War reenactors are knowledgable and devoted… hobbyists who volunteer their time to educate the public about the lives of Civil War soldiers.  They are not over-grown children playing soldier, nor are they right-wing extremists out to rekindle lost secessionist fires.  Professor Lafantasie obviously has failed to apply his impeccable research skills to this article.  There is no proof that one reenactor (or living historian) was consulted for the piece.  It is difficult to see how the article could be useful to anyone outside the most secluded academic circles.  Large crowds attend reenactments of all sizes (no, Professor, not all events involve “pretend battles.”)  Rather than talking to spectators, the Professor belittles them as well.  Academics wonder why the public is losing what little faith it had in them; it is clear that intellectuals like Professor Lafantasie have no faith in the American people (even those who bought his book.)  There are historians who disagree with you, Professor.  It speaks volumes that this rambling line of tripe appeared in a petty partisan rag like Salon. 

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4 Comments

Filed under Ephemera, News, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Academic Stick in the Mud

  1. Reblogged this on Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained–Books & Writing at Middlemay Farm and commented:
    Reenactors rock! They’re smart, down-to-earth, funny and oh-so-generous in sharing their love and knowledge of history. If the rest of us were half as devoted to learning our history we’d be able to have excellent grey area discussions about race, patriotism, culture and war. Think of reenactors as a living memorial to the flawed humans before us and have fun!

  2. I always believe that reenactments are the best and easiest way for a person to learn history – right up front and personal!!

  3. If reenactors don’t represent life-long learning I don’t know what does.

  4. I love reenactors. I think they bring history to life and make it more accessible to the general public. Nothing gets visitors to a historic site like reenactments. And that can’t be a bad thing.

    And reenactors are generally wonderful teachers who are generous with their knowledge. I learned bits from the reenactors at Appomattox that I hadn’t learned from the many books that I’d read on the topic. Of course, none of those books were by Prof Lafantasie, which probably my gap in knowledge.

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